The Northern Yilgarn Conservation Reserves
cover (or will cover after gazettals) a diversity of ecologies under various existing or proposed reserves
- click for map and detailed information
. These reserves
comprise: Mt Manning Range Nature Reserve; Helena and Aurora Range Conservation Park; Mt Manning Range Conservation Park; proposed Jaurdi Conservation Park; proposed Mt Elvire Conservation Park; and proposed Die Hardy/Jackson/Windarling Range Reserves
. Also: parts of Lake Seabrook adjoining the southern end of the Koolyanobbing Range and proposed Jaurdi Conservation Park and parts of Lake Barlee adjoining the proposed Mt Elvire Conservation Park.
Much of the trek is on formed unsealed roads but parts lie in remote and lonely lands with track conditions to match. It is covered by about 80 exploration and mining leases, with significant existing and proposed conservation estates over the remainder. Best times would be autumn and spring; summers can be extreme.
Soils in the region seem to be characterized by light sand over a clayey base. When dry, unsealed roads and tracks offer easy going but turn treacherous if wet. Even the Evanston – Bullfinch road, which appears to be graded to modern mining road standard, is not classified as an all weather
road. There is extensive track damage in the area north of the Helena and Aurora Range arising from vehicles bogging in muddy conditions.
Following the plot north from Southern Cross on the bitumen is a short sidetrip option to a peninsula into Lake Seabrook 12kms south of Koolyanobbing. The track shows on the map as circumnavigating the peninsula but seems to fade out at the northern end. This short section is on firm going on the shores and easy on the peninsula itself. It is quite likely that a more pleasant access to this spot
would be by going east from Southern Cross to Yellowdine (33kms) and then north to pick up Lake Seabrook Road at its eastern end.
Continuing north from Koolyanobbing the track is in open and easy condition and would be very pleasant were it not that it frequently lies with in sight of the Portman haul road. Once under the Helena and Aurora Ranges, the track falls to a basic but good surfaced two ruts and remains in this condition until eventual connection with the Bullfinch Evanston Road.
This long stretch along and into the Ranges, then onto Pittosporum and Kurrajong Rocks, Hunt Range, Mount Manning Nature Reserve and passing under Mt Manning is a great scenic drive through varied woodlands, heath and mulga. There is a spur back to the north of Mt Manning but was not explored. Do not miss the spur to the top of the H&A Range which opens out on a mini plateau with sensational views (good camping spot
). The maps show a track over the Range to the south near here but advice from a number of sources indicates that the descent may be difficult to dangerous. Also the spur up Bulgalbin Hill is steep and rough – take care.
Once exiting onto the Bullfinch Evanston Road continue north past the old Evanston workings to the Diemals Road, turn right to shortly pick up the Lake Barlee Road to Elvire. Proceeding past the homestead to Mt Elvire the going becomes increasingly rocky.
Return to Bullfinch the way you came, down the Bullfinch Evanston Road (which, while having the characteristics of a dirt highway) passes through some very scenic country. Lake Deborah near the Bullfinch end makes a great lunch stop.
Facilities are available at Jaurdi (not on this trek) and Elvire at the old homesteads. Elvire is a basic open roomed shelter in an open paddock but does come with a longdrop toilet and a boiler generated shower. Drinking water is also available. Many would prefer to continue camping in a more scenic spot
, but if you do wish to overnight then a booking needs to be made with DEC Kalgoorlie.
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The Northern Yilgarn lies within the Yilgarn Craton which is a geologically very stable form with, apart from the ‘island’ ranges, very little structural relief. Both banded iron and greenstone rock formations occur with the former yielding gold and associated ores. Banded iron is a very hard rock which has resulted in these ranges being striking emergents onto the plains. Granitic rocks also outcrop in places
as at Kurrajong Rock and Rainy Rocks.
There is no permanent water in the area although several of the granites hold temporary supplies in gnammas after rains.
Woodlands predominate in the south of the area graduating to acacia mulga as a pure dominant structure at Elvire north. In between lie attractive mosaics of these structures, with abundant wildflowers
in season in the former, interposed by heaths in the sandier sections. As such it straddles a major vegetation boundary – the mulga/woodland line and would be a very advantageous place from which to study climate change impacts.
The banded iron formations hold unique assemblages of plants with a relatively high proportion of rare, endangered, poorly described, and endemic vegetation. There is serious tension over these ranges between exploitative economic interests by prospective iron miners and the necessity to ensure that conservation interests are not compromised. Tetratheca species are emblematic of this conflict, many of which are found on only one range, with different, ‘unique to them’ species on adjacent ranges.
The area also holds a rich diversity of fauna, not surprisingly, given the wide range of habitats.
The Northern Yilgarn was inhabited pre colonisation by Aboriginals from the western desert and south west areas; the local language at that time being Kalamaya. Banded iron formation ranges are reported to be of spiritual importance to current custodians.
Earliest exploration began with the Gregory brothers in 1846 who named Mount Jackson. Their effort was succeeded by Giles’ journey west from SA in 1875 who noted the iron content of the ranges and slightly earlier by John Forrest who named the Helena and Aurora Ranges.
Mineralisation of the area was not limited to iron and viable gold was rewarded by the creation of the declaration of the Yilgarn Goldfields in 1888 with operations at Mount Jackson winning gold in 1894. Jaurdi Station was at the western extent of the Kalgoorlie woodlines operations supplying firewood and mining timbers. Iron ore operations commenced at Koolyanobbing during the 1950s until abandonment in mid 1980s. Operations subsequently recommenced with Portman Mining who remain the managers today.
Pastoral activities (sheep) were undertaken at Jaurdi Station from 1968 until 1989 when the then Department of Conservation and Land management (CALM) purchased the lease under the sandalwood regeneration project banner. Elvire Station was taken up for sheep in 1966 but was not fully stocked and was similarly purchased by CALM in 1991.